My students this week start their first group project in the class, which is to create a poster, model, or some sort of representation of a house to present to their classmates for review. I will judge my student’s ability to meet the speaking requirements of the assignment, while the students will just the effort to create the visual materials. This means that the groups spend approximately 99% of their effort trying to impress their peers, and I get to listen to a few boring paragraphs that were memorized for the presentation.

Last semester, the students who did this activity for me went over and above the level of expected output for a Freshman introductory level speaking class. Large interactive cardboard dioramas, detailed posters, lots of colorful drawings. They went all out for this project. The other teachers and I squirreled away the projects from my class (two of them featured my face prominently in their designs!) and now use them as examples of good presentations for students.

When I gave my rundown of the speech today, the students in my current class got to see these previous projects for the first time. There were gasps of amazement and admiration for the effort. Some people got very excited to participate in the project when they saw they could go over the top and do any ridiculous thing they wanted for the concept. Since the minimum requirements are so low, they have free reign over how much they can do to impress their friends. Overhearing a few of the students ideas for the next round of project for this year, students are “going big”, and bringing lots of interesting ideas.

In just the first class, one of the smaller groups were discussing their plans. The students talked about making a house in the shape of a giant smart phone, and as you touch an “app”, you open up a room who has a theme based on that application. Giant Cardboard rendered cell phone houses? How awesome is that idea? It’s very contemporary and very Korean.

My students have a week to deliver, and an entire day of classes to collaborate and build together while I watch and advise them on their English speech. Last year, things got a little weird. I don’t expect sex and voyeurism as themes in presentations this year, but judging by some of their projects, they’ll have something unusual hidden in there somewhere.